Functional geomorphologic design is the basis for successful restoration
This post was kindly prepared by Sara Peláez Sánchez
The question whether to continue mining for resources or not is not on the agenda today. The important questions about mining are different: How do we maximize resource efficiency in order to use fewer materials for longer?
And the question relevant to this blog is: How do we improve the quality of mine reclamation, so that society and the planet get the best ecological outcome as part of the deal?
Improvement is needed, because many ‘traditional’ approaches to mine reclamation are ineffective. For example Gradient Terraces, which aim to reduce erosion, are easily damaged by water runoff and become part of the problem. Many traditional techniques fail to secure a stabilized and self-sustainable slope as a basis for further recovery of ecological processes.
Moreover, these ‘old’ techniques aim to achieve a green appearance as soon as possible. But is this enough to guarantee the productivity and sustainability of the reclaimed lands and restore functional ecosystems? The aim should be, instead, to provide the initial ‘head start’ to the ecosystem so that the mining company can leave the site in a state of self recovery. For instance, if a mine should be restored to a Mediterranean forest area, first priority would be to ensure a stable landform (geomorphic reclamation), secondly to promote soil recovery and finally to enhance vegetation.
Speaking of geomorphic reclamation here are a few examples:
Similar to “Cuencas” but improved is the small watersheds model, based on building small catchments which allow controlling sedimentation and erosion inside the quarry.
A modern method receiving increasing attention is GeoFluvTM using Carlson’s Natural Regrade software to model natural landforms and watershed restoration. Thus, instead of opposing natural forces that shape the land, GeoFluvTM aims to allign the design harmoniously with them.
The rationale behind GeoFluv is twofold: on one hand the reclamed site will enjoy higher structural stability and resist erosion. On the other, the reclamation costs are significantly reduced since the new design does not require expensive initial moving of land masses and long-term maintenance. The designs can be implemented with on-site materials. They are more hospitable to wildlife and plant diversity, which finally results in restoration of the natural value of the land. These are all good reasons for such methods to be more widely embraced by the regulatory agencies and society.
The group Restauración Geomorfológica is spreading geomorphic reclamation in Spain and South and Central America. For more information, see www.restauraciongeomorfologica.es
To contact Sara, please write to: sarapelaezsanchez(at)gmail.com
If you are interested to contribute to this topic, please contact: boris.barov(at)birdlife.org